Dale’s Soapbox of Advice about Unclaimed Property
Allow me my soapbox for a minute, please.
In every state, there is a “unclaimed property” department. The State of Missouri explains it as:
“The State Treasurer is responsible for returning Missouri’s Unclaimed Property. Each year financial institutions, businesses, government agencies and other organizations turn over millions of dollars in cash and the contents of safe deposit boxes to the Treasurer’s office. The Treasurer currently holds more than $1 billion in unclaimed assets. The average Unclaimed Property return is approximately $300. The Treasurer’s office works hard to return money Missourians are rightfully owed by:
- Creating public awareness by publishing the names of owners of unclaimed property in Missouri newspapers. Names of more than 145,000 owners are printed in more than 100 news publications across the state as required by state law.
- Working to return unclaimed military medals and insignia to the heroes who earned them by encouraging Missouri military families to search the Treasurer’s office website. Pictures are paired with the names and last known addresses of the safe deposit box owners in which the medals and insignia were found. This information is available at www.treasurer.mo.gov/Military/AllMedals.aspx.
- Allowing Missourians to donate their Unclaimed Property to any of 20 charitable organizations operating in Missouri. The process of donating Unclaimed Property can be completed entirely online in most cases.
One in ten Missourians have unclaimed property. Individuals can search the Treasurer’s database at www.ShowMeMoney.com for unclaimed property 24/7. They can also sign up for email alerts when new unclaimed property comes in matching their information and can also file paperless claims. These services are always free of charge.”
I use to see the lists for unclaimed property in the newspaper for several days in a row. I use to presume that they were the same list printed over and over again, like a probate notice, so if I checked the list when I first saw it in the paper, I didn’t check it again the next day. Then I discovered that the list was for a different county each time it was published, so the lists were not the same.
Initially, I would idly read over the names as I read the morning paper, looking for my own, family members or friends. If I found someone’s name, I would let them know, but that didn’t happen very often.
Then one day, several years after my father-in-law died, I saw his name on the list. Now his name, James Weir, is common enough, that I thought I would look into it, but it really wasn’t top of my list until I saw my mother-in-law’s name on the list. Now her name is very different – Lioba Weir. The only other Lioba Weir is her granddaughter in New Mexico. I went online and checked the main database and found that their names were on the main list, but they were showing against an address I had never heard associated with them.
My mother-in-law was deep into dementia at that point, and when I asked her about the address, she showed no sign of recognition. I asked all the relatives. While everyone in my mother-in-law’s generation, except for her, was deceased by that time, Mike’s siblings and cousins didn’t recognize the address. We finally figured out that it was a boarding house that my in-laws lived in for about 3 months right after they got married. Housing was Really scarce then (with the soldier’s returning from WWII, getting married and moving to the “Big City”, so they had a 1 room efficiency where they shared the bathroom with the landlord’s family. After about 3 months they were able to find a larger apartment and moved out. There is lots of information about the lack of housing in St Louis at that time in the Post Dispatch’s archives. It was so bad, that people were living in coal bins with their families.
Now the State of Missouri requires WRITTEN proof that someone resided at the address in their files for the property they are trying to claim. They will accept old utility bills or rental/mortgage statements. They will accept envelopes from cancelled mail that show that address. But I had nothing and could find nothing.
At the time, I was starting the process of cleaning out the farmhouse, since Lioba had been moved to a dementia care facility. Both Lioba and her mother had saved EVERY letter and postcard they had ever received and after email came about, Lioba would print off the emails and save the printed email. I went through tubs of old letters looking for something with that address, but found nothing. I contacted her nieces and nephews and children, but none of them had anything.
FInally, when I had just about given up, having gone through all the letters and all the old documents I could find in the farm house, I started packing up the books to take to a book resale shop and in the process realized that Lioba had written her name and address inside all the books. Searching through books on the shelves and books I had already boxed up, I found 3 that had her new married name of Lioba Weir and that address in them.
I put together a huge package (over an inch thick), showing all the documentation I had come up with about the housing situation at the time, and asking if the state would accept the books as proof of address as a result. At that point, I didn’t even know what it was I was trying to claim as the State won’t tell you what the item is, until you can show proof that you were the person at that address they are looking for.
The Unclaimed Property Department accepted my package and processed the claim for Lioba. It turned out to be a couple thousand dollars, which back at in the 40’s was BIG money, from an insurance policy. We aren’t sure if it was a policy that returning soldiers were eligible for or what, but apparently, my father-in-law took out the policy, paid at least some money toward it, put his new bride on as the beneficiary, then totally forgot about. He never paid any more money toward the policy and he never updated his address with the insurance company. Meanwhile, the policy sat there. 70 years later, the insurance company turned the money over to the state and made it the state’s responsibility to find the owner.
If I hadn’t read the list that day. If I hadn’t searched and searched to find out about the address and how they were connected to it. If those 3 books had already been gotten rid of. So many “ifs” that might have prevented us from claiming the money for her. It wasn’t like she needed the money at that point in her life, it was about it being her money and it should be returned to her.
But back to my soapbox, Check the lists! Not just once, but at least once a year. The money for my in-laws took 70 years to be turned over to the state, so all the times I had looked at the list before that, they weren’t on it. Check the lists for every state you have ever lived in. They all have an Unclaimed Property Department. Look for your name, your relative’s names, the names of friends. Then take the time to file and see, or to let others know. In most cases, it will only take you a few minutes and a stamp, unlike how long it took me to research my in-laws claim.